Having moved three times over the past year, Charleston resident Randy Rhea knows how difficult it can be for people to get acquainted and familiar with their new community or neighborhood. The Atlanta native relocated to Augusta, Ga., in July 2011 and recently packed up again to move to Charleston. His first-hand experience of trying to navigate new cities was the impetus behind purchasing Charleston’s Welcomemat Services, a marketing strategies and technology company that specializes in providing monthly direct-mail packages to new movers to help them get acclimated to their surroundings. Rhea formerly worked as a commercial real estate agent before moving to Augusta where he launched his original Welcomemat business in November 2011.
Welcomemat Services of Charleston has been operating as a corporate-owned territory since 2005. Rhea has been successful out of the gates with his operation in Augusta, but growth is limited due to the city’s small size. With family having lived in the Charleston area before, relocating to expand in the Charleston market just made sense for Rhea.
“When I saw how much potential this business had in a smaller town like Augusta, I immediately began thinking about expansion,” said Rhea. “Geographically, Charleston was the logical choice and Welcomemat already has a proven track record here. I’m looking forward to bringing a more personal touch to all of Welcomemat’s Charleston clients as the new local owner.”
Welcomemat mailing packages contain a select number of custom designed gift checks elegantly printed and personalized for each new resident, intended specifically to introduce them to neighborhood retailers and service providers. The “new resident” segment of consumers – who are actively seeking restaurants, health-care providers, auto care and more – is often ignored but represents one of the hottest markets available to businesses.
“After relocating numerous times over the past two years, I personally see a need for these services within the local community,” said Rhea. “I’m excited to not only help new movers adjust during what can often be a stressful and tumultuous time, but to also help small businesses prosper by giving them access to these new loyal customers.”
Many small business owners don’t realize the value of the mover market and how it pertains to customer loyalty. New residents are a unique market segment, actively seeking out neighborhood stores, shops and restaurants to provide them with services and products to fill their daily needs.
“Although ‘one-time’ mass discount programs are currently an extremely popular marketing tool, they don’t typically generate returning customers,” said Rhea. “The Welcomemat program takes a more strategic approach to getting new customers and actually retaining them.”
Welcomemat is the first and only cooperative mail service to employ patented technology that enables new resident information to be bar-coded onto every gift check, allowing local businesses to receive free, customized tracking and information reports regarding responses to their offers. After a customer uses a gift check, the business returns it to Welcomemat. The bar code is scanned and the resulting information is provided back to the business in an easy-to-read data sheet profiling the client’s new customers and providing demographics such as the customer’s name, gender, income level, neighborhood and home value. Welcomemat uses data from more than 35 sources to locate newcomer addresses.
Welcomemat Services of Charleston serves the communities of Mount Pleasant, West Ashley, Daniel Island, James Island, Johns Island, Folly Beach, North Charleston and Isle of Palms. Rhea would like to continue to grow the brand throughout the state and has his eyes on Columbia where he plans to expand within the next 18 months. Welcomemat has worked with many notable businesses in the Charleston area such as Cactus Car Wash, South Carolina Aquarium, The Crab Shacks, Pearlz Oyster Bar and TBonz Restaurant Group.
Welcomemat began franchising in 2010 after receiving nearly $2 million in capital investment from private investors. In addition to Rhea’s two locations in Augusta and Charleston, Welcomemat has franchised operations in Indianapolis; Columbus, Ohio; Wilmington, N.C.; Asheville, N.C.; Hilton Head, S.C.; Bellevue, Wash.; Nashville, Tenn., as well as corporate-operated offices in Atlanta, Charlotte and Greenville, S.C. Projections call for the opening of 12 franchise locations in 2012 toward a goal of opening 200 locations during the next five years in high-profile, transient markets across the country.